Federal File

October 15, 2003 1 min read

Children’s Song

Joining a recent stream of celebrities who have visited Washington to promote child- and education-related causes, Latin pop-music star Ricky Martin caused a stir late last month when he stopped by the headquarters of the Department of Labor.

The Grammy Award-winning artist wasn’t there to sing hits such as “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” but showed up on a much more serious note.

Mr. Martin, an ambassador of goodwill “in training” for UNICEF, met with Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao Sept. 25 to promote a campaign by the department against child labor in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Everyone involved was very excited to have him,” said Celeste Helm, a spokeswoman for the department. “I heard a little flutter going through the hall when he arrived. We have a lot of visitors of high stature, but not many from the pop-music world.”

Millions of children in Latin America and the Caribbean are victims of commercial exploitation, including child pornography, cross-border smuggling, and child prostitution, Ms. Helm said.

The Labor Department has several international programs to combat child labor throughout those regions, she added. The programs provide children with access to education in areas with a high incidence of exploitative and abusive labor practices.

“The Labor Department is interested in stopping child exploitation,” Ms. Helm said, noting that the agency has programs “throughout the world” that target child labor.

Mr. Martin, who became a pop sensation as a solo artist, is also a former member of the Latin American musical group Menudo.

He is still going through the process of becoming a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, said Erin Trowbridge, a spokeswoman for the New York City-based organization.

The singer’s work with UNICEF will intersect with efforts of the Ricky Martin Foundation, which recently launched an initiative against child pornography and prostitution.

—Lisa Goldstein